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Article by Susan Hargrove,  Oh Joy Farms

As more and more exhibitors use dolls when showing their models...having the doll doing "everything" correctly can be a challenge!! One of the most frequent problems is REINS!! What is the proper way for the doll to hold the reins? We will start with the "western" style reins...romal, split, snaffle and mecate. "Rein" styles come and go as do other trends in tack and "show-ring" fashions!! As a model-horse judge (and "real-live" horse show judge since 1977)...my main concern is NOT whether the tack is the most "current" trend...but whether it is "legal" for the class entered, properly fitted on the model and used correctly!!


Romal-style reins are "legal" for all western events. They are still frequently seen in trail and working cowhorse classes despite the fact that "split" reins now dominate in the western pleasure, western riding, cutting, reining and horsemanship divisions.

The photo above shows the reins held correctly. The reins enter the hand by the "little" finger... cross the palm... and exit the hand on top over the thumb! The hand "holds" the reins... not the loop and knot that form the "junction" of the reins and the romal.  The photo above (and/or to the right) shows the reins held correctly from the "other" side!

The above photos all show the romal reins being held "incorrectly"!


Split reins are the "current" favorite for showing in most western events. Split reins can be held in "either" hand...with the excess rein falling on the same side of the horse (hold the reins in the right hand...the excess rein lies on the right side of the horse - - hold the reins in the left hand...the excess rein lies on the left side of the horse). Split reins come "into" the hand over the index finger...and exit by the little finger.

Correct Way to hold split reins (below)

Incorrect way to hold split reins (below)


Junior horses (5 years and younger for Quarter Horses...check for your particular breed as the associations do differ in their definition of junior horse) may be shown in a snaffle bit or hackamore as well as the regulation curb bit. For our discussion... hackamore refers to a flexible, braided rawhide or rope bosal (we are not discussing mechanical hackamores which may be seen in other classes). Junior horses that are shown in a snaffle bit or hackamore are ridden with two hands on the reins.

snaffle.jpg

To hold either type of rein properly... picture sitting on the horse with the rein lying across the horse’s neck (the two snaffle reins would be crossed over the neck). Reach down (with the palms of your hands facing down) and pick up the rein (two reins if you’re using a snaffle bit)...you’ve got it! A common mistake I see is performing the above exercise for "picking up the reins"... but doing it with the palms of the hands facing up instead of down... then the doll is holding the reins incorrectly!!   Correct way to hold mecate reins (below).

Incorrect way to hold mecate reins (below).

mecate3.jpg

Using dolls with our models gives them a truly "realistic" touch...give it a try!
These four pictures illustrate four different “rein” types...split, romal, mecate (on the bosal) and snaffle bit.

(Snaffle bits are meant to be used on younger horses... different breed organizations vary as to the age that qualifies to be shown on a snaffle bit. If you're going to show with a snaffle... check with the corresponding breed registry... and make a note to the judge explaining this.)